Atlanta sports legend Hank Aaron has joined the bidding for the Hawks, according to Marc Stein of ESPN. Baseball’s former home run leader is reportedly part of a group that includes Steve Kaplan, minority owner and vice chairman of the Grizzlies, and Jason Levien, former Grizzlies CEO and current managing general partner of DC United in the MLS.
Other prominent members of the group are Erick Thohir and Handy Poernomo Soetedjo, billionaire sports and media figures from Indonesia. Several other Atlanta residents are also involved, according to Stein’s sources. Kaplan and Levien refused comment to Stein.
After his playing career ended, Aaron became a baseball executive and built a business portfolio that includes car dealerships and restaurants. He was inspired to join the investors by his fandom for the Hawks and love for Atlanta in general, sources tell Stein. Allen Tanenbaum, Aaron’s business adviser, called the group’s rumored interest “a private process” and said Aaron would like the process to play out, Stein writes. Earlier this week, reports indicated that former NBA players Grant Hill and Junior Bridgeman were also pursuing the team as part of a consortium that includes USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and his son Bryan, the former GM of the Suns and Raptors.
The team was valued at $425MM by Forbes in 2014, but that was prior to the $2 billion sale of the Clippers last year. The sale of the Hawks, which encompasses the entire franchise, also includes the operating rights to Phillips Arena. The franchise is likely to go for somewhere on the low end of a range between $750MM and $1 billion, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reported earlier this month. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the owners of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, former players Dominique Wilkins, Dikembe Mutombo and Chris Webber, and attorney Doug Davis are others linked to the sale. A pair of investors are also mounting long-shot bids to buy the team and move it to Seattle.